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Isle of Man pension scheme wins prestigious UK award

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Isle of Man Government’s new Unified Pension Scheme has won a prestigious UK award in recognition of its innovation and excellence.

Industry publication Professional Pensions hosts an annual awards ceremony to celebrate the best pension funds and managers in the British Isles. At the 2012 event in London the Isle of Man Government Unified Scheme (GUS) secured the top accolade in the Public Sector Scheme of the Year category.

GUS, which came into effect in April this year, overcame fierce competition from a number of large UK public authorities, including West Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. The judging panel of industry experts selected the Isle of Man scheme for its innovation, focus on member communications, partnership working, administrative efficiencies and excellence in governance. It was also noted that the Isle of Man had achieved major public sector pension changes which are still several years away from implementation in the UK.

Ian Murray, Chief Executive of the Public Sector Pensions Authority, said:

‘This has been a real team effort over the past four years, with many people and organisations contributing to the successful implementation of GUS, including several government departments and with support and input from trade unions. In terms of driving forward change, it has been one of the biggest projects undertaken in the Isle of Man’s history. A large part of the Island’s population is linked to the public service either by direct employment, marriage, retired ex-employees or other family relationships. Introducing changes that affected such a major element of the local community was always going to be a challenge. To achieve this degree of change against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and low or zero wage increases has been even more remarkable.’

Work on GUS started in 2008 at the request of Tynwald and centred on the harmonisation of 15 different pension schemes covering around 10,000 civil and public servants, manual workers, doctors, nurses, GPs, dentists, ancillary NHS staff and fire fighters. The aim was to address the crucial issue of sustainability and provide for the long-term security of pensions for employees, while making arrangements simpler, more affordable, and less vulnerable to UK changes over which the Island has no control.

Full and transparent consultation took place to solicit the views of employees, unions and other stakeholders in order to identify the most appropriate way forward. Extensive communications, a dedicated website, presentations, briefings and personal drop-in sessions helped to keep people informed at every stage of the process.

A dedicated statutory body comprising employer and employee representation and an independent Chair, the Public Sector Pensions Authority (PSPA), was also established to provide effective ongoing governance. The outcome has been a more streamlined, more sustainable scheme that is controlled by the Isle of Man’s own Government and by Tynwald.

Jerry Carter, Chairman of the Public Sector Pensions Authority, said:

‘Winning the Public Sector Pension Scheme of the Year award is a magnificent achievement and reflects the tremendous amount of work that has been put into the successful introduction of GUS. It is no mean feat to be ranked by expert judges ahead of some huge UK public sector schemes which have massive resources at their disposal. Bringing together 15 different schemes has been a unique and complex challenge. It effectively started from scratch, with a totally blank sheet of paper. Change of this magnitude inevitably generates strong opinions, and great care has been taken to listen to the views of all parties. The result of this collaborative effort is an award-winning unified scheme which better meets the needs of the people of the Isle of Man.’

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